Dozens of refugees and descendants of refugees gathered in front of the White House to share their stories, Wednesday evening.
The rally, organized by HIAS, brought together individuals who support policies that are “welcoming” to refugees.
Most of the participants were Jewish and most were refugees.
"There are people,” Anna Weisfeiler began. “People in the building behind us. Who don't understand what it means to be a refugee.”
Weisfeiler told the crowd she and her family fled Russia in the late 1980s, in the middle of a war, as they faced systemic anti-Semitism.
Weisfeiler said she first experience anti-Semitism when she was four.
"I was at a ballet lesson, and the teacher had to leave. So the accompanist was playing. I was in a back corner and the lines like went to and fro and she said, don't let her lead you. She'll lead you right out the window… My mother had been beaten up. There were certainly quotas."
The family, she said, left Moscow in September of 1988 as refugees.
She said they first went to Austria, then to Italy, then to the Unites States.
“I vaguely remember when we left Moscow,” Weisfeiler told WUSA9. "When we arrived in Boston months later, I remember sitting on a bench exhausted from the trans-Atlantic flight. My mother waited for our hosts, hoping they hadn't changed their minds. She had $247 for herself and her two children and didn't speak a word of English."
Weisfeiler didn’t know English either, but she started the first grade – at an American school – one week later.
She says she came to share her story, at the White House fences, hoping to raise a little bit of awareness.
"I want people to see what refugees look like. That we aren't these scary monsters that hide in the closet or are set on some evil intend. We just want to live."